The Sobering Stats on Diabetes

An alarming new report by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in three Americans could have diabetes by 2020.  Currently 1 in 11 Americans suffer from the disease.  Diabetes has been on a strong up-rise since the 1960s.  Given our staggeringly poor nutritional diet (9 out of ten Americans prefer Twinkies and Oreos to Kale and Broccoli!!) and our addiction to HDTV, Netflix and anything sedentary, this should come as no surprise.

The disease starts quietly, and progresses slowly.  In many, it goes undiagnosed (see stats below).  Although drugs and therapies are improving significantly, the disease slowly and inexorably begins to affect nearly every organ system in our bodies.  Eating food transitions from being pleasurable to downright dreadful as certain foods are taboo.  Your blood sugar monitor becomes your “fitbit” in a strange sort of way.  If not treated properly or if blood sugar levels are poorly managed, diabetes quickly becomes one nasty disease effecting kidney function and the blood vessels in your eyes (which degrade and can lead to blindness). Despite new drugs that are far more efficient at keeping blood sugar stable, Diabetes is a leading cause of amputation of limbs as well as cardiovascular disease. The most frightening stat of all—those with diabetes have a 50% greater chance of premature death.

Americans don’t have an exclusive either on this illness.  It’s estimated that 67 million individuals in India also have diabetes.  In China, it’s much worse.  Since the 1970s, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is up ten-fold to over 100 million people.  Tragically, nearly 500 million have pre diabetes—a condition where blood glucose levels are significantly elevated—but not enough to be classified as diabetes.


The sobering statistics:

  • 29.1 million = the number of Americans (1 in 11) with (some form of) diabetes

21 million have been diagnosed

8.1 million have not

  • 1.25 million = the number of children and adults diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes
  • 25.9% = prevalence of diabetes in Seniors age 65 or older
  • 1.4 million = number of new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year
  • 86 million = Americans over 20 who have pre-diabetes, up from 79 million in 2010
  • 7th = diabetes ranking as a leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • $245 billion = total cost of diabetes in the U.S.

Okay, now for the encouraging news.  Since the discovery of insulin in the 1920s, medicine has made substantial progress in coming up with new drugs to help diabetics managed their blood sugar levels more effectively.  Four companies—Novo Nordisk, Merck, Sanofi and Eli Lilly each have substantial franchises in the various treatments for the disease.  From longer acting insulins, to drugs with cardiovascular benefit, this “quadropoly” has been a miracle for diabetics around the globe.

For more  details on the Diabetic Pandemic and those companies creating novel new drugs to combat the disease, see our latest issue of In Sickness and Wealth – June 2016.

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